Building relationships with the media is an investment in your success.
By Melanie Parncutt, Publicist – Otter PR
Establishing and maintaining strong relationships with reporters and other members of the media is vital when working in the field of public relations. Whether you’re a publicist, entrepreneur, or a thought leader, spending time cultivating these connections is more than worth the while.
When you develop close working relationships with the press, they start to view you as a reliable source, and your chances of achieving coverage increase.
Do your research
First and foremost, don’t assume every reporter is the same. Each reporter you reach out to covers different beats, has different areas of specialization, and finds different topics interesting. In order to identify the members of the media who are most likely to take an interest in the news you have to share, it’s necessary to conduct research.
Public relations software can facilitate this research, but it is expensive. For local coverage, this research can be as simple as picking up your community’s local weekly and turning to the masthead. Since local reporters and editors like to keep their fingers on the pulse of the community, they are often the best place to start reaching out to the press, but remember to mention your connection to the local area right in the first paragraph of your pitch.
Another easy way to find members of the media who would consider reporting on you is to keep an eye out for articles on key topics during your own daily consumption of the news. Each time you come across a story that relates to what you do, make sure to note down the reporter’s name. Sometimes, clicking on the byline will lead you to their email address, which you should also collect. Otherwise, you can probably find their contact information on the outlet’s website with a little sleuthing.
Another highly effective approach to remaining informed about noteworthy journalists and news outlets is to create Google Alerts for their names, especially if you’re looking to build relationships with journalists at international outlets or who predominantly cover international news. Setting up these alerts will let you receive notifications whenever they publish articles, allowing you to stay familiar with the topics they are actively pursuing in the media and giving you a clearer idea of how to pitch them. This, in turn, enables you to foster meaningful connections with them and promptly contribute to relevant topics they are looking to cover.
Of course, the more research you do, the more leads you will turn up, and the more leads you turn up, the wider you can cast your net. The wider you cast your net, the more you can hope for someone to take an interest in what you have to say.
Write an effective pitch
No matter how many people you send your media pitch to, a bad pitch will still fail to generate results. That’s why it’s important to master the art of writing pitches.
Following a few simple rules can help your media pitch stand out from the thousands of other emails that flood into reporters’ inboxes every day. First of all, address each contact by their correct name. In the first line, mention their recent work on a topic that relates to your pitch angle, as this shows you’ve done your homework and are specifically reaching out to them regarding news they might be interested in, given their previous pieces.
In addition, keep the news cycle in mind, since it’s not always a good time to pitch anything and everything. Instead, think about the media as hosting a public conversation. At any given time, the public’s attention will be taken up most by whatever news stories are trending.
When reaching out to the media, it’s necessary to tailor your pitches with those trending news topics in mind, so your pitch should indicate how you or your client could weigh in on those hot subjects. If you can do this, then you’ve already gone a long way to convincing the media of your or your client’s relevance.
Take “no” for an answer
Don’t expect reporters to respond to your pitch — it’s perfectly normal for them not to. In fact, getting a response of any sort, even a rejection, is unusual because members of the media are incredibly busy. They must frequently perform under urgent deadlines in highly charged atmospheres.
If you don’t hear back from a reporter, then you can assume they aren’t interested. Should this happen, bide your time, develop a new idea for a story, and build out that angle in a new pitch. After a while, you can send that new email out, but under no circumstances should you bother journalists with the same pitch they didn’t respond to previously.
If a reporter responds to your pitch with a rejection, then congratulations! They didn’t have to reach out to you, so the fact that they were willing to initiate a conversation is a good sign. Respond to these emails with politeness and good humor, no matter how disappointed you may feel, but don’t keep pushing the story idea in your pitch. If they say they don’t cover the area your pitch was on, then use the opportunity to ask what they do cover and update your notes.
Hustle on their behalf
Personally, I like to think of myself as reporters’ assistant. The member of the media is the talent — they are the ones who are putting the story together, doing the writing, harnessing the inspiration, and informing the public — and it’s our job to support them in these endeavors by becoming a go-to source.
Toward this end, publicists and sources should be punctual, responsive, and dependable, so make sure to fulfill any promises you make and never oversell what you have to offer. Reporters appreciate publicists and sources that hustle on their behalf. By being willing to make an effort to help them, they will become increasingly willing to rely on you.
If you don’t know the answer to a reporter’s question, then admit it and tell them you’ll get back to them once you do. Ask what their deadlines are, as well as when they would need to hear back from you, but make sure to meet that deadline!
Say “Thank you”
Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and members of the media are no exception. When their article goes live, this is a great time to show your appreciation by praising the story and thanking them for their hard work. This is a natural, organic way to get your name in front of them again in a positive way. Being thanked will make them feel warm toward you, which will increase the chances that they will be willing to work with you again in the future.
Growing a history of shared success
While building relationships with members of the media does take a substantial amount of time and effort, they often prove invaluable once in place. As you develop experience working with particular reporters, you increasingly understand who to pitch with what kind of story idea.
As your history of working with members of the media grows, one day you’ll come to the point where, when you want to get the word out about something, all you have to do is send a single informal email or text, already knowing the recipient will want it.
— Melanie Parncutt is a publicist at Otter PR in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her success in media relations can be attributed to her knack for storytelling, knowledge of strategic communication, emphasis on relationships, and verve for trend-jacking. Having worked with clients in over 10 different industries, she has developed strong connections with journalists across the country and specializes in the future of work. She has landed her clients in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, USA Today, Business Insider, The Boston Globe, and hundreds of other respected publications.
Are you ready to elevate your brand’s media pitching strategy? Contact Media Moguls PR today to book a PR consultation or learn how our expert done-for-you PR services can help your business thrive.